2011 Cadillac CTS-V: First Drive Review

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Row of 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupes at Monticello Motor Club

Row of 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupes at Monticello Motor Club

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It's not often that a manufacturer has the courage to turn dozens of auto journalists loose on a racetrack with pricey copies of its new, 556-horsepower performance coupe.

So we were eager to get behind the wheel of the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe and find out whether it was as much fun as the CTS-V sedan that's been on sale for a year or so.

Short answer: Yep, it is. And even hotter looking.

The CTS-V Coupe is the rakish two-door coupe version of the better-known CTS-V four-door sedan. The "V" designates the performance version of Cadillac's rear-wheel-drive midsize model, aimed squarely at the BMW 5-Series, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and the Audi A6.

In addition to the four-door sedan and the coupe, the CTS range includes a low-volume but very stylish station wagon (largely aimed at European buyers, who actually like wagons). A CTS-V wagon previewed at this year's New York Auto Show, so wait for that one next year.

The standard V-6 Coupe, which is just rolling out to dealers this month, was a surprise 2008 Detroit Auto Show concept. GM kept it completely under wraps until unveiling it in a kind of Steve Jobs, "Oh, and one more thing..." moment--to a rapturous reception from the auto press.

The production CTS-V Coupe was shown at this year's Detroit Auto Show, and our colleague Nelson Ireson was lucky enough to get a ride in it this May, but no wheel time.

Now both the standard coupe and the stomping V-8 "V" are coming onto the market, and we got to drive the latter. GM rented Monticello Motor Club--an exclusive private track normally only open to members--for two days, and set the auto press loose in a fleet of CTS-V coupes.

VIDEO: One lap at Monticello in a 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

Monticello's a challenging track or, as the pros say, "very technical." From off-camber blind esses to a very tight uphill U-turn, it requires a lot of learning to do well. Being our first time on the track, we focused on exploring the car and keeping it on the track.

Not that the CTS-V Coupe is a hard car to drive. It feels firmly planted at all times, on big 19x9-inch (front) and 19x9.5-inch (rear) wheels wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires and a rear track 1 inch wider than the CTS-V sedan.

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